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House Rules Committee: Net Neutrality-Blocking Bill to be Addressed without Amendments

The House Rules
Committee voted Monday to bring the resolution invalidating the FCC's network
neutrality rules to the House floor without amendments, or the opportunity to
offer them, and with limited debate.

That was the product of
an hour and a half of spirited debate over the resolution (H.J. Res. 37),
led by House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.),
who sponsored the resolution, and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) ranking member of the
subcommittee, who strongly opposed it.

The FCC adopted the
compromise rules Dec. 21 on a straight party-line vote.

Defeated in
the Rules vote were attempts to amend the resolution to include
no-blocking and transparency portions of the FCC's rules. Both had been offered
in the subcommittee, but Walden pointed out to the subcommittee then, and to
the Rules Committee Monday, that amendments were not germane on the resolution
under the Congressional Review Act because it was implement to hold an up or
down vote on agency regs.

The decision to bring
the resolution to the floor under a closed rule--limited debate, no
amendments--will now have to be voted on in the full House, which is slated for
Tuesday, according to an Eshoo staffer. The resolution is then expected to
get a Thursday floor vote, said the staffer.

The Rules Committee
hearing on the resolution transferred the spirited and politically polarized
debate from Subcommittee.  Republicans said they were simply trying to
stop the FCC from over extending its authority to the detriment of Internet,
which they argue has flourished without the rules and without major

Democrats countered
that the rules were a compromise that preserves innovation, investment, and an
open Internet.

Walden said that he knew
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was a friend of the President and that the
President supported the new rules. "I get that," he said, but also
said that when the FCC oversteps its authority, as Republicans argue it did,
Congress needs to take action.

Eshoo said that
suggestion that the FCC's actions were going to ruin the Internet was
"hogwash." Republicans argue that the rules could stifle investment.
Eshoo pointed out that the rules were generally not opposed by ISPs, but Walden
pointed to Verizon as one that did, then repeated his arguments from the subcommittee
that the FCC had coerced cable operators and others into submission with
the open Title II proceeding and their power to affect the outcome of other
issues those companies would want resolved in their favor.

The hearing occasionally
strayed into other issues, with Democrats suggesting the closed rule was
another example of Republicans not being open and transparent, bringing up oil
companies and the healthcare bill.

It also got personal at
times. Walden took issue with Eshoo's suggestion that the Medieval Studies
degree of a Republican Communications subcommittee witness on the impact on
capital markets of the rules might not be the ideal qualifications.

Walden shot back that
she also had a Harvard Business MBA.

At about the same time
the hearing was being held, the White House Executive Office of the President
sent out a statement opposing the resolution and saying the president was being
advised to veto it. Given that fact that the Senate is in Democratic hands,
the resolution is unlikely to get that far.